What do you think of Christians taking antidepressants?
By Pastor John Piper, given on March 30, 2010
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
What do you think of Christians taking antidepressants? I have been on them and have been accused of not relying on God.
That relates to an earlier question about how any physical or personal means that you use can signify that you’re not relying on God. So eating might be a failure to rely on God, because he might just fill your stomach by miracle, and you don’t have to eat. Or not sleeping would be a way of relying more on God, since you don’t have to have your psyche made stable by sleep at night. And so on.
God has ordained physical means. Aside from the ones that seem more natural, like food, there’s medicine: aspirin, Nyquil, etc. This water is helping my throat right now. [Sips it.] Was that sip a failure to rely on God?
Could be. “Just throw this away and rely on God! He will keep your throat moist. You don’t need to be drinking. You’re an idolater, Piper. You’re idolizing this because you’re depending on it.”
Well, the reason that’s not the case is because God has ordained for me to thank him for that. He created it and he made this body to need a lot of fluid. And it’s not a dishonor to him if I honor him through his gift.
Now the question is, “What medicines are like that or not like that?” Taking an aspirin?
My ophthalmologist told me about 4 years ago, “Take one baby aspirin a day and you will postpone cataracts or glaucoma or something.” He said, “I can see just the slightest little discoloration, and the way it works is that circulation helps.” So he told me to pop one of these little pills in my little vitamin thing. And I take it every day. And I just said, “Lord, whether I have eyes or not is totally dependent on you. But if you would like me to use this means, I would.”
My answer is that when you start working with peoples’ minds, you are in a very very tricky and difficult situation. But I think I want to say that, while nobody should hasten towards medication to alter their mental states—even as I say it I think of caffeine, right?—nevertheless, I know from reading history, like on William Cooper, and by dealing with many people over the years, that there are profoundly physical dimensions to our mental conditions.
Since that’s the case, physical means can be appropriate. For me it’s jogging. I produce stuff in my brain by jogging. But that might not work for somebody else, and they might be constantly unable to get on top of it emotionally. I just don’t want to rule out the possibility that there is a physical medication that just might, hopefully temporarily, enable them to get their equilibrium, process the truth, live out of the strength of the truth, honor God, and go off it.
When I preached on this one Easter Sunday a woman wrote me, thanking me that I took this approach. She said, “You just need to know that I live on these things, and I know what it was like 20 years ago and the horrors and the blackness of my life. And now I love Christ, I trust Christ, I love my husband, our marriage is preserved, and I’ll probably be on these till I’m dead.”
So I’m not in principle opposed. I just want to be very cautious in the way we use antidepressants.
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10 thoughts on “Antidepressants for Believers?”
Dear Bryan, I was diagnosed with depression at around age 20, but had experienced it from a young child. When I went to uni, I was put on ADs which didn’t help, I tried three different types which kind of helped with the symptoms but not the underlying cause and gave me crazy side effects like 24hour sleeping. Before I left uni I decided to wean myself off them, when I left I went to stay at a mental health home for two weeks, at the home there were people in a very bad way, some had become addicted to medication, some had horrible side effects because of it, being there I felt strongly that I would seek a natural alternative to ADs.
I have also been diagnosed with pnh which i strongly believe originated from psychological dysfunction. I do not take medication but self treat naturally with herbs, diet, prayer and love. I have spent a lot of time and energy seeing Medical experts only to find that they are clueless. I have seen many young people break down (friends and students), i was a psychology teacher for five years, and am painfully aware that medication at best aims to control symptoms and not cure it and at worse are a form of just see what happens.
Maybe there are Christians that don’t want to hear it, but pharmaceutical medication is not the only form of treatment. Maybe we can try natural remedies aswell in the first instance and then see if there are any gains. Also because we are a body, soul (heart and mind) and spirit, we should also take into consideration the interaction between the parts on the whole. I do feel Christians have become too scientific particularly in relation to our health, we see the manifestation as the place of origin and don’t look any deeper. I could go on longer but will stop here as i don’t know the type of reception this will receive.
What an amazing testimony. I hope everyone will read it and consider its possibilities. There seems to be a lot of holistic thinking, more than drugs. I like it very much, and if people are struggling with controlling and adapting to their meds this could be an answer for them.
It took me three years to workout my meds. I take Zoloft, lithium, and Seroquil every day. I did have a couple of adverse experiences. Taking Concerta almost killed me. But after working closely with a good psychiatrist who knew meds we were able to figure it out.
Patience is key though, and it takes plugging along.
This is wonderful, Pastor Bryan–I wish I’d been able to hear it decades ago when I was made to feel like a failure as a Christian, for needing extra help. Hope you’re feeling well today–just wanted to “check on you”. your sis, Caddo
Depression can be a chemical imbalance plain and simple. Its sad how much guilt and pain “preachers of rightousness” have put people because they werent able to overcome depression or other torments without help that wasnt percieved as spiritual. Couldnt have found that kind of “help” in the “world”. Because of idealism christians are sometimes the last to find this kind of medication. “Wisdom from above”,oh really. Interesting that someone like Piper is able to recieve medicine developed from people that he believes are totally deprived.
I agree. And it is with a misguided zeal that insists on a watertight godliness that won’t take the proscribed meds. I think that is pretty arrogant.
If our body gets sick or broken, we generally don’t think anything of taking medication for it. But for some reason, if the brain (which is part of the body) gets sick, it’s looked at so differently. I never understood that. Anyway…thanks for posting this.
Perhaps a better analogy is the onset of Type 1 Diabetes. I’ve been told it is a shortage of insulin in the body originating in our pancreas. Sugar levels skyrocket, requiring the injection of insulin. It would be very dangerous to stop taking meds for this. It would be foolish for me to block its administeration. I wouldn’t do it.
The dependence on meds for depression parallels this. When I take my Zoloft, it supports me. I find it to be useful and beneficial.
Thanks Karla for posing this comment. I hope it blesses, and doesn’t confuse the issue.
Bryan, Thanks for posting this. I needed this today. Peace, Linda
Using antidepressants is, to my opinion, OK also for christians.
If we believe that good has made us with a body, a mind and a soul, we should either accept that for all these parts, we may get ill and may need some kind of medicine, or we should be consequent to neglect it for all three areas.
If you have an accident and your arm is heavily broken, would you simply pray, or would you also go to a doctor (and still pray)?
What is the difference to psychic problems? Even they can get help from medicine.
The real important thing is, to my point of view, that we are grounded in god. Whereever we go, whatever medicine we take (such as antidepressiva), we should do it under his mercy.
And of course, an advice to anyone, is not taking too much of whatever medicine is needed. Take whatever it really needs but not more.
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